UPDATE: Congressman Ken Buck has responded to Todd Watkins’ call for Colorado Republicans to support the Jan. 6 prisoners. In a letter of his own dated Sept. 1, Buck points out multiple incorrect assertions and calls on Watkins to stop promoting misinformation he finds online.
Buck concludes by lamenting the fact that “Republican leaders are misdirecting the energy and resources of Republican activists.”
Read the full text of Buck’s letter at the bottom of this article.
“The letter makes a number of factually incorrect claims, and then proceeds to overstate the threat to our Republic based on these false claims,” says Buck. “There has been significant misinformation proliferated on the Internet about the status of the January 6th defendants, and I assume these Internet rumors are the source for much of the incorrect information contained in the letter. I hope this response will help clarify the situation and that you will cease disseminating false information.”
I hope this letter clarifies the current status of pre-trial detainees in relation to the ongoing January 6 prosecutions, and also provides the context of why it is inappropriate to suggest that these defendants are being singled out for their political views. More importantly, it is sad that Republican leaders are misdirecting the energy and resources of Republican activists at a time when this country is facing crises after crises as a result of the failed policies of the Biden administration.
“CALL TO ACTION” blared the headline of the Colorado Republican Party’s email last week. What was so important that state GOP blasted an all caps request to its entire list?
“Your support is needed for the January 6 prisoners. Please see the letter below and if you want to be included, please respond to this email and we will add your name to the list. Also, please distribute this to your county and/or constituents for them to give us their permission to include their names as well.”
State GOP Secretary Anna Ferguson, who has publicly stated her belief in the QAnon conspiracy, signed the email. El Paso County Vice Chair Todd Watkins, himself an unapologetic election denier, wrote the letter itself.
Watkins, who has twice lost elections for party vice chair this year, described the Justice Department’s treatment of those arrested for participation in the Jan. 6 insurrection as “our government committing atrocities on its own citizens for what are obviously political reasons.”
“This should be a cause of national shame,” says Watkins. “This should appall and disgust every American, particularly those elected to represent us… This must be a top priority of the entire GOP and especially anyone elected to office.”
In addition to asking Colorado Republicans to sign the letter, Ferguson urged members to solicit as many additional signatures as they can, so that a large list can then be delivered to Colorado’s Congressional delegation.
As of the GOP’s email, Watkins’ letter had four co-signers: Vice Chair Ferguson, El Paso GOP Chair Vickie Tonkins, and Colorado Springs state Reps. Scott Bottoms and Ken Degraaf.
Neither Ferguson nor Watkins responded to the Colorado Times Recorder’s questions as to how many Republicans have signed the letter so far. This article will be updated with any response received.
The party’s new treasurer, Tom Bjorklund, participated in the insurrection, which the Colorado Times Recorder reported a year and a half before Chair Dave Williams appointed him to oversee the party’s finances.
Earlier this year, U.S. House Republicans opened an investigation into the conditions at the Washington, D.C. jail that houses the Jan. 6 pre-trial detainees. On March 23 Congresswomen Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene led a tour of the jail (that included two Democrats) to observe the facility first-hand. Greene’s description of mistreatment was countered by the two Democrats, who say the insurrectionists’ wing of the jail is nicer than that of the general population.
Read the full text of the letter:
In Defense of the Rights and Protections Guaranteed by the US Constitution
August 21, 2023
Officers, Officials, and Representatives of the Colorado Republican Party:
We are writing you to urge your assistance in contacting legislators and other elected officials from our state as regards the treatment and handling of Americans who have been arrested and/or charged with crimes related to the January 6, 2021 incident at the US Capitol.
No matter how you feel about that incident, the 2020 election, or Donald Trump, it is impossible to deny the facts that many Americans have been grossly mistreated and abused by our legal system. Hundreds of Americans have been and still are detained without bond, most for misdemeanor offenses. Many others have suffered physical abuse and injury at the hands of their jailors or been denied medical treatment for pre-existing conditions or conditions that arose due to mistreatment while in custody. Almost all have been denied contact with their attorneys and any semblance of due process. Our justice system has become a vehicle for vengeance and a tool for silencing political dissent; it has become a weapon to inflict fear on the American people writ large.
There is no plausible excuse or sound legal explanation for why hundreds of Americans have been jailed for nearly two years pending federal charges. There is absolutely no excuse or plausible defense for denying these citizens their rights to due process, bond, or protection from cruel and unusual punishment all of which is made worse when one considers that we are talking about defendants awaiting an opportunity to argue their cases in court. Our government, specifically the US Department of Justice and the US District Court for the District of Columbia, has and continues to violate these citizens’ rights guaranteed by the 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th, and 14th Amendments to the US Constitution.
This should be a cause of national shame. This should appall and disgust every American, particularly those elected to represent us. This is our government committing atrocities on its own citizens for what are obviously political reasons. The same government and legal system that routinely releases suspects charged with far greater and more heinous crimes against individuals and private businesses is hunting down and locking up others who have offended the state. Worse vet–this is the same US Government that continually released known terrorists from captivity back to conflict zones where they continued to kill American service members and innocent civilians.
This is the antithesis of a constitutional republic: This is a despotic, tyrannical, banana republic. No elected representative should feel comfortable ignoring this or pleading impotence and powerlessness. Every member of the US Congress should take up this matter at once they should have been fighting it since 2021.
We have a government that is principally concerned with and motivated by retaining its own power and privilege and will pervert constitutional and statutory authorities to attack its political opponents. Because of the ruthlessness perpetrated by those we put into power, our country looks more like The Gulag Archipelago than “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
This must be a top priority of the entire GOP and especially anyone elected to office. If we do not defend our Constitution, all the powers available to the government can and will be turned against We The People; indeed they already have.
Todd M Watkins, Vice Chairman, El Paso County (CO) Republican Party
Open letter from U.S. Rep. Ken Buck to El Paso GOP Vice Chair Todd Watkins
Sept. 1, 2023
Dear Mr. Watkins,
You recently sent me, by email, a letter concerning the treatment of the January 6 defendants while in federal custody. I understand that your letter was electronically forwarded to the Colorado GOP Central Committee and in reliance on the statements contained in your email, more than two hundred members of the Central Committee have signed indicating full concurrence and support. It appears that this letter was generated to request action by the Colorado Republican members of the US House of Representatives. I write in response, and caution that I represent only my views.
The letter makes a number of factually incorrect claims, and then proceeds to overstate the threat to our Republic based on these false claims. There has been significant misinformation proliferated on the Internet about the status of the January 6th defendants, and I assume these Internet rumors are the source for much of the incorrect information contained in the letter. I hope this response will help clarify the situation and that you will cease disseminating false information.
Your letter claims, for instance, that hundreds of individuals have been detained without bond, for misdemeanor offenses, or detained “pending federal charges.” In reality, no defendants have been jailed “pending charges.” All were charged prior to arrest and detention.’ The number of detainees has fluctuated with the number of cases brought and resolved, from 56 detainees in the spring of 2021⅔ to 40 in the fall of 2021° and 20 in the spring and summer of 2023.* Of those still currently held in custody, 85% are charged with assaulting a law enforcement officer, a felony. The remainder are charged with conspiracy or possession of a deadly weapon on Capitol grounds, also felonies.
All pre-trial detainees are provided with hearings to determine bond and are only held without bond if the court determines they are “a danger to the community,” a “flight risk,” or at high risk of obstructing justice Your statement that January 6th defendants have been detained without bond for misdemeanor offenses is also pure fiction. All defendants held without bond at any point were charged with felonies. If you believe that I am relying on incorrect data, please provide me with the names of January 6* defendants who have been detained without bond, for misdemeanor offenses, or pending federal charges. You claim that hundreds fall into this category, so surely you can provide me with a dozen names. Your letter claims that January 6 defendants have suffered physical abuse and injury, and further suggests that they are being singled out for their political beliefs. The DC jail is a miserable place, rife with abuse and dangerous for even the most hardened criminal. The DC jail has been a concern of civil rights activists for decades, who argue it maintains substandard treatment of inmates.” There are legitimate concerns with the treatment of all inmates in the DC jail and clear pathways to address abuse. Lawyers for several January 6 defendants have complained about the lack of proper food, access to showers, and restrictions on religious services. Currently, none of these allegations have been substantiated by a court. Your letter misleads the reader by portraying worse conditions at the jail for January 6 defendants than for other inmates. That is simply not true.
Your letter also claims that January 6 defendants were denied medical treatment for pre-existing conditions, or for injuries while in custody. There has been at least one valid allegation of abuse concerning a January 6th defendant. In 2021, a federal judge held DC jail officials in contempt for treatment of January 6 defendant Christopher Worrell. For months, officials failed to obtain treatment for Mr. Worrell’s broken wrist and then obstructed an inquiry into the matter. There is no evidence that this is a widespread occurrence or that it happened as a result of Mr. Worrell’s status as a January 6 defendant.
Additionally, your letter asserts that January 6 defendants were denied contact with counsel. All January 6 defendants are being held in “restrictive housing,” due to legitimate concerns about threats to their safety if left with the general population. Restrictive housing means additional separation, limited visits, and limited recreation time. This status has been deemed necessary by DC jail officials and confirmed by U.S. Marshals and federal court personnel.  It is more difficult for an attorney seeking to visit with an inmate in restrictive housing and the attorney has to make additional arrangements with the jail. The courts have made accommodations, including continuances, to assure that counsel have adequate time to meet with defendants before hearings and trial.
Your letter further asserts that there have been violations of these defendants’ rights guaranteed under the 4th, 5th, and 6th Amendments to the US Constitution. The 4th Amendment protects Americans against unreasonable search and seizure. The 5th Amendment prohibits double jeopardy and provides a right against self-incrimination. The 6th Amendment provides criminal defendants with the right to a speedy trial, a lawyer, an impartial jury, and to know the accusers and charges. Criminal defense attorneys routinely file motions alleging violations of the 4, 5, and 6″ Amendments.
In my experience as a prosecutor for 25 years, trial courts carefully consider the merits of these motions because a case can be overturned on appeal if the trial court rules in error and the case must be retried, causing additional work for everyone. There have been no substantiated allegations that the government violated the 4″, 5*, or 6th Amendments in prosecuting January 6 defendants. It is irresponsible to allege without evidence, as your letter does, that Americans are being systematically denied their most basic Constitutional rights based on their political beliefs.
Your letter then argues that there have been violations of these citizens’ rights guaranteed under the 8th, and 14th Amendments to the US Constitution. The 8th Amendment protects criminal defendants from excessive bail, excessive fines, and cruel and unusual punishments. Civil rights activists have long argued that conditions in US prisons and jails, and specifically the DC jail, constitute a violation of defendants’ 8th Amendment rights. As a former prosecutor, I have firsthand experience with the deterrence power of prison, but I remain willing to engage in a conversation about the living conditions at federal prisons. At the federal level, bail is determined by a court hearing and based on numerous factors, including previous criminal convictions, seriousness of crime, continuing danger to the community, and likelihood of appearing at future court dates. The majority of defendants in January 6 cases have been granted bail on their own recognizance, essentially promising to show up to future court dates without having to pay the court bail money.” In the third paragraph of this response I address a few relevant statistics to this 8th Amendment bail argument.
The 14th Amendment provides equal protection under the law and due process. While many January 6 defendants have decried the process they face as unfair, it is the process every federally indicted criminal defendant in this country goes through. That is not to say that reforms to our criminal justice system are unnecessary, but for you to argue this specific set of defendants have been singled out and denied due process is misleading.
I hope this letter clarifies the current status of pre-trial detainees in relation to the ongoing January 6 prosecutions, and also provides the context of why it is inappropriate to suggest that these defendants are being singled out for their political views. More importantly, it is sad that Republican leaders are misdirecting the energy and resources of Republican activists at a time when this country is facing crises after crises as a result of the failed policies of the Biden administration. Please encourage our grassroots supporters to help win elections so that we expose the truth about the failed withdrawal from Afghanistan, the open border policies of this administration, the fentanyl poisoning of seventy thousand Americans every year, the increase in crime throughout major American cities and the inflation eating away at Americans spending power.
As we unify over the real problems facing Americans, we can succeed in restoring
commonsense conservative policies.